The Challenges of Drug Testing

The daily news blotter is certainly abuzz with the recent alcohol and drug related arrests of student-athletes at colleges and universities from across the country.  Texas Christian and the University of Missouri are the most recent scenes, but the problems have been found from coast to coast.  While the reported incidence of drug use is lower in student-athletes as seen from random drug test results as compared to traditional college students, it certainly is prevalent.  The problem is when the student-athlete is arrested for an alcohol or drug related event, or tests positive on random drug tests; it garners more attention that the chemistry student or the drummer in the university band.

Having dealt with drug testing and the administration of positive drug tests during my tenure in college athletics, I must say nothing I was ever saddled with as an administrative task was any tougher.  The only way one can keep their sanity is to be consistent and administer the program by what should be a concrete, straight forward set of procedures.  There should be no room for interpretation; just follow established, clear guidelines.

Yes, there were times when coaches and administrators made requests to move to shades of gray, but protocols must be followed.  Any deviation from procedures creates problems.  Once you deviate from the procedures, you have a new standard.

This brings us to the reason for this blog.  As you look at some of the handling of college athletes secondary to alcohol or drug related offenses, there just seems to be too much subjectivity.  Penalties and suspension should be immediate and not selected based on the prowess of the team’s next opponent.

One of the few leverages that coaches and administrators have over student-athletes today is the coveted playing time.  I truly believe this needs to be used.  Student-athletes crave discipline deep down inside.  They want discipline, they need discipline.  Why else would an eighteen year old freshman “walk-on” to a football team?  They want to be a part of the team, have direction and focus in their life.

When we don’t act with quick, clear actions, we certainly send a message to these student-athletes.  Poor actions by administrators, or failure to act in a quick and firm action certainly sends a message . . . And the message may be that we are working around your wrong doing to make sure we keep you on the field.

I hope this is not the case, but it certainly seems so.  Sometimes we say a lot by not saying anything and make bad decisions.

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